Tag: Alumni Feature

Alum expresses love for helping children by founding outreach center


Megan Estrada has always had a heart for-at risk youth.

Estrada, founder, director and president of Hub City Outreach Center, attended South Plains College to pursue that love for children.

She grew up in Abernathy, Texas, 19 miles outside of Lubbock, and graduated from Abernathy High School.

After graduating, Estrada made the decision to attend SPC. She was drawn to SPC because of the small class sizes and the opportunity to build relationships with the professors. Estrada also enjoyed the opportunities for one-on-one learning from professors.

“I was drawn to SPC because they had services and resources for non traditional students.” explained Estrada.

While at SPC, Estrada majored in Child Development. She says some of her favorite moments at SPC were volunteering for the Autism Walk. She also enjoyed participating in community outreach.

“Some of the highlights I had while attending SPC were being involved in ACT, or Advocates for Children Today,” recalled Estrada.

After Estrada graduated from SPC, she transferred to Lubbock Christian University. She graduated from LCU in 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Family Studies.

After graduating from LCU, Estrada began working in the human services field. She later founded the Hub City Outreach Center in Lubbock.

“Hub City Outreach Center provides prevention education to at-risk youth,” said Estrada. “Hub City has a clothing closet, hygiene closet, and free tutoring and volunteer opportunities for the youth we serve.”

Along with her bachelor’s degree in Family Studies, Estrada is also a certified Community Health Worker. For the past two years, she has been teaching students at Hub City Outreach Center through the curriculum to be successful.

Hub City Outreach Center uses curriculum to help students learn the skills it takes to stay away from drugs, alcohol and violence, and to rise above difficult situations. One of their intentions is to help students set and achieve goals.

“SPC taught me to strive for my goals and pursue my dreams,” said Estrada.

Hub City Outreach Center serves students between the ages of 4 and 17. The services provided by Hub City Outreach Center are free for families and students.

The services of Hub City Outreach Center rely on donations from the community for support. Hub City Outreach Center also accepts donations of clothes, shoes, school supplies and other items. All donations to Hub City Outreach Center benefit not only the children and youth but their families as well.

In 2018, Estrada was selected as the 2018 Hispana Inspiradora Award from the Hispanic Association of Women. The award highlights women who demonstrate outstanding work that benefits the community. Recipients are positive role models who exhibit leadership skills.

Outside of working at Hub City Outreach Center, Estrada enjoys outdoor activities such as hiking, fishing and spending time at the lake.

“I like to spend my weekends with my daughter and grandson, who are my world,” said Estrada.

Faith leads alum degree in human services


For Melinda Ledesma, Levelland has always been home.

She was born and raised in Levelland. She first attended St. Michael’s Catholic School, before transferring to the Levelland school system.

After graduating from Levelland High School in 1988, Ledesma enrolled in college.

“A week after high school graduation, I immediately started college at Incarnate Word in San Antonio,” Ledesma said. “I transferred to South Plains College after completing the 1988 fall semester at Incarnate Word.”

Ledesma began college majoring in psychology, later focusing on child psychology.

She said her experience while at SPC was memorable.

“I participated in organizations, clubs, and events on campus,” recalls Ledesma. “I was a member of the Spanish Club and Choral program. I was blessed to have a Spanish instructor who took me under her wing and helped me plan my degree in order to graduate with my Associate of Arts.”

After Ledesma graduated from SPC, she transferred to Texas Tech University. She majored in child psychology there as well. During this time, she got married and started a family, which later caused her to put her studies on hold.

After taking a break to raise her children, Ledesma realized she wanted to work in education.

“I experienced a time in my life where I wanted to become an educator,” explained Ledesma, “and had a difficult realization of how important it was to have my bachelor’s degree.”

Ledesma returned to SPC and gained all of the necessary credits needed to transfer to Wayland Baptist University. She decided to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in human services, and she will graduate from WBU in May.

Ledesma, who serves as the administrative assistant for the Vice President for Student Affairs at SPC, has three daughters who have all attended SPC.

Outside of work, Ledesma enjoys photography.

“I am an amateur photographer,” said Ledesma. “I enjoy natural light, nature, still life, and portrait photography.”

Ledesma is also heavily involved in her church, St. Michael’s Catholic Church, and the Catholic Student Ministry on campus.

“CSM has been my passion for ministry on campus,” said Ledesma. “It has been an amazing experience meeting extraordinary and faith-filled students on campus, who will eventually carry their passion with them when they transfer, carrying their faith wherever they go on their college career.”

Ledesma says that even though she knew how important having a college education is, she didn’t have the opportunity to go back to college. South Plains College makes the process of going back to school better for students.

“There are many opportunities to pursue a degree or certificate program at South Plains College,” said Ledesma. “South Plains College’s efforts to help students succeed allows us as students to transfer to the university of our choice and continue a degree and graduate with the confidence we have earned a quality education.”

Ledesma hopes her story will encourage others who may have had to put their education on hold like she did.

“As an employee of South Plains College,” Ledesma said, “I am not only proud to graduate from SPC, but to also work for an institution that takes great pride in the success of our students.”

Former student enjoying job as morning meteorologist

Having always had a passion for meteorology, Bobby Johnston is now living it with a positive and determined outlook on life.

Johnston, a meteorologist for Fox 34 (KJTV) station in Lubbock, grew up in the small town of Smyer, Texas, which sits between Lubbock and Levelland. He attended high school there before going to South Plains College.

“Weather has always been something I’ve had a passion for and has always been important to me,” Johnston said. “It took me a while to figure out that I wanted to be a meteorologist. But once I started going to school for it, everything started working out to know that I wanted to be a meteorologist.”

Johnston attended South Plains College from August 2006 to May 2009. He said that he had a great experience at SPC, explaining that it was the right fit for him after high school since Smyer was a small school.

“The college offered classes that I loved for a cheaper price than a normal university…,” said Johnston. “Smyer was a small school, so a small community college was a great start for me, and financial wise, because I paid for school on my own, it was a great choice.”

Johnston offers some advice for current students saying, “enjoy classes, enjoy communities around whatever campus you’re attending, study hard, make passing grades, listen to your instructors, and you will have a degree before you even know it.”

Johnston worked in a bank full time for six years while he was a full-time student at Mississippi State before he became a meteorologist. During his last semester, he quit working at the bank, graduated, then tried to find a job. Johnston has been working for two years at Fox34 and has been a morning meteorologist for eight months.

“The best part of the job is relying on computer models to give me a correct forecast for the viewers,” Johnston shared. “Just being on air and the aspect of the job is a blast. Keeping people safe during severe weather is always one of the aspects of the job that is not only fun, it can be challenging for certain aspects of people needing to be safe at a certain time and needing to know what to do in a certain situation.”

Johnston said he usually tries to learn more by watching other meteorologists do their job.

However, he added that he tries not to let it rule his life, since meteorology is always kind of with him.

“But when you’re off the clock, you need to be off the clock,” said Johnston. “You have to let things go at some point when you’re off of work.”

In Johnston’s spare time, he loves to build things and do wood working. He also likes to watch movies, and chase storms, which is a side hobby from his job of being a meteorologist, and spend time with his wife and two dogs, Jax and Charlie.

“I love watching storms develop and continue to progress through their stages,” Johnston explained, “being able to walk outside knowing what the cloud formation is, watching the storm develop, and watching it drop large hail or rain, or if it becomes tornadic.”

For students who want to become a meteorologist, Johnston shared some advice.

“Go to school, make it a passion,” said Johnston. “It’s something you want to do, not for making a lot of money, but keeping people safe, and do your internships at stations.”

Alum serves community through career, volunteering



When life doesn’t go as you plan, it’s not too late to plan again.

Sometimes people give up, but not Clifton Smith. Life obstacles were not seen as negative, just a new step in another direction.

Smith, known to friends and family as Dane, was born in Brownfield, Texas. He grew up and graduated from Loop High School in 1978. He graduated at the end of his junior year of high school and began college at Texas Tech University in the fall of 1978.

Smith attended South Plains College in 1999, graduating in 2002.

His initial major was pre-med. Smith says he finished high school early in order to get started on this career.

“I experienced a profound culture shock coming from a very small school with small classes and attending a large university with classes of up to 300 students,” Smith recalls.

At the request of his father, he transferred to Lubbock Christian College the following semester. He later transferred back to Texas Tech for the fall semester in 1979.

Smith then left college at the end of that semester for personal reasons, adding that the primary reason was because his dad needed help on the farm. He farmed from 1980 to 1997.

Smith said he had been interested in medicine since he was a small child. He became increasingly aware of the lack of medical aid in his rural community. Because of this, he began attending classes to help with the local Emergency Medical Services.

Smith became a member of the Seagraves-Loop EMS. He began this EMS career as an ECA and continued to take classes at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center (TTUHSC) until achieving his paramedic certification in the mid-1980s. Dane’s older brother, Timmy, Dana Lambert, and Rick Purcell, all members of the Seagraves-Loop volunteer EMS service, were instrumental in circulating petitions, holding meetings and, in general, increasing awareness for the possibility of forming an emergency services district in that area. Seagraves-Loop EMS had been severly underfunded prior to this time. Forming an ESD would solve that problem.  The Northeast Gaines County emergency services District #1 was voted in and formed in 1991.  This was the third such district to be formed in the state of Texas.

Smith married Pam Chaney in 1983. They  have now been married 35 years and have three children, Brandon (who also attended SPC), Sheldon and Kristen. They recently moved from Seagraves to Morton, Texas. They also have three grandchildren.

Smith had to quit farming on his own in 1997. He worked for his father from 1997-1998, before accepting a job as the assistant director of Seagraves-Loop EMS. Smith said that he still had the urge and drive to know more about medicine, so he began taking college classes on Tuesdays and Thursdays at SPC. He said that he was only able to do this because his wife Pam could work as a paramedic in his place on the days he went to class. Smith took classes in order to work toward being accepted in a Physician Assistant program.

Smith says he has always wanted to be a doctor from the time he was a small child. Due to life circumstances, being a physician assistant would come in a close second. Smith got all of his prerequisites at South Plains College.

“It’s a fine school and a good place to learn,” said Smith of SPC. He particularly had the highest regards for David Etheredge in Biology, Leanne Smith in Biology, Dr. Jesse Yeh in Chemistry and Dr. Jackie Wright, an Anatomy and Physiology instructor.

Smith says that he liked the small classes at SPC and the fact that he wasn’t just a number.

When asked if he had any advice for current and future students who attend SPC, he said, “Don’t think you can breeze through if you made A’s in high school. Study, and you can make high A’s.  If you don’t study, you will not pass.”

He graduated in 2002 with an Associate of Science degree. Prior to his graduation, he was awarded the Psychology of Personality, Outstanding Student in Biology and Outstanding Student in A&P awards.

Smith first applied for PA school at TTUHSC during the summer of 2003. He was granted an interview but was not selected to be seated in the class.

In mid-December 2004, his wife, Pam, asked him if he had filled out the application to get into PA school. His response was, “I don’t know if I am going to.” She replied, “Oh yes you are!” The rest is history.

Smith was given an interview, and this time he was seated in the upcoming class. He began PA school in the summer of 2004.

Upon graduating from PA School in September 2006, he was approached by Dr. George Manning, who was interested in starting up a clinic in Seagraves. Together they opened the Seagraves family clinic in January 2007. The clinic was in operation from January 2007 until August 2009. It was located on the ground floor of what is now known as the Simpson Inn.

Smith now has a full-time practice in Morton. He works a the Cochran Memorial clinic and hospital. He said that if any prospective PA students wish to shadow him, he would be more than glad to accommodate them.

In his spare time, Smith continues to serve others. He purchased a riding John Deere lawn mower and mows up to five yards a week for others, including many elderly ladies who do not have a husband.  On one occasion, the man who mows for the hospital was not able to, and without anyone knowing, Smith mowed the hospital lawn until he could get back to his job.

Alum plans to teach abroad after accomplishing academic goals

Nothing was like Amanda Anders thought it was going to be. But with the help of professors and self-motivation, she has accomplished her goals.

Anders came from a loving home, but things weren’t always so easy financially. She says that she got herself through by working and going to school.

Having lived in Lubbock most of her life, Anders graduated from Lubbock High School in 2002. Then in the following fall, she started her college career at South Plains College.

Her first semester at SPC did not go as planned. She faced a life-changing situation that later made her a better student and person.

“I did not do well my first semester,” explained Anders. “I failed out. I got too wrapped up in things outside of school.”

Anders then decided to take a four-year break from college.

Teacher 2“All I did in those four years was work at a call center in Lubbock,” she said. “I eventually became a supervisor there. But then I realized I needed to go back to school in order to get a better job.”

After having time to reflect on what she wanted, she saw she had a bigger purpose to fulfill and returned to SPC.

“The second time was better,” Anders added. “I was actually serious about going to school.”

Anders took a lot of journalism classes, which was where she had some of her most memorable times.

“My favorite class was with Charlie Ehrenfeld,” she said. “He is the only professor that I have come back to visit over the years. Billy Alonzo from the TV program was also great.”

SPC has always had a special place in Anders’ life. At SPC, you learn a lot, but they also make it fun, according to Anders.

“I have always loved South Plains,” she said. “I loved the smaller classes and affordability.”

She ended up graduating from SPC in 2008 with an Associate of Arts Degree, majoring in public relations. This was a big deal for her, since she was the first in her family to graduate from college.

Right after graduating from SPC, Anders enrolled at Texas Tech University. She graduated from TTU in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in Multi Disciplinary Studies, with a minor in math and science. She is still continuing her education at Texas Tech and will graduate with a master’s degree in instructional technology in December.

“I started thinking that teaching was what I wanted to do,” said Anders.

Anders taught math for eighth-graders in Littlefield for four year. During her last two years of teaching, she applied to every job opening on the SPC website.

“I just wanted back at South Plains,” said Anders. “I knew I wanted to work in higher education, but I didn’t want to go anywhere else but South Plains College.”

Coming from a background relatable to most college students, Anders said that she wanted to work where she could interact with the students and show them that they can reach their goal. However, Anders never got a call back for a job offer.

“Finally, I got offer a job in Lubbock for teaching,” Anders recalled. “But two days after, I got a call from SPC for a job in the Business Office as the student refund coordinator.”

Even though the job in Lubbock was going to pay about $12,000 more a year, she still took the offer from SPC.

“I took the pay cut because I thought I would rather be happy with what I’m doing rather than making more money,” said Anders. “It was the best decision.”

Within six months of being in that position, she was promoted to serve as the business services technician.

“South Plains College has given me a sense of belonging and purpose, because I love what I do now,” said Anders. “I love being able to help the nontraditional students, because I came from a background like most students here.”

Anders said that SPC prepared her for the new adventures she is about to embark on. During spring break, Anders traveled by herself to London, England, for eight days, and now she will be moving there.

“I am going to teach abroad,” Anders said. “I feel like I have never left here, even though I love Lubbock and Levelland.”

A company called Point to Point Education recruits teachers to teach in the United Kingdom because it is so short-staffed. Because Anders has a degree in math and science, she is able to pick wherever she wants to live.

“The public relations background from South Plains has helped me when I get in front of groups and talking to people,” said Anders.

She has decided to sign a two-year contract to teach in London, but said she hopes to return to SPC after her adventure.

“Every decision I have made has been well worth it,” said Anders.

Alum pursues music while continuing education

Marcus “Banks” Fitzhugh has gone from sliding and dancing around on the kitchen floor to performing at the House of Blues.

Fitzhugh attended South Plains College from 2014 to 2016, studying physical education, then continued his education in secondary education at Lubbock Christian University.

He says that his favorite part about SPC is how inclusive it felt and how everyone around was chasing after the same goals, creating a great vibe to be around, which motivated him the weeks leading up to graduating.

The Lubbock native decided to pursue secondary education with encouragement from his grandmother and the desire to be involved in the lives of his future children.

“I decided to study education originally because I wanted to be able to coach and teach my future kids and my friends’ kids,” said Fitzhugh. “I’ve always thought that would be really cool, and my grandmother told me as a teenager she thought I’d be very good at it.”

Fitzhugh became involved in music when he was 10 years old. He would sing in the church choir with his brother on Sunday mornings and spend time making songs on the weekends. He explained that he would dance and slide around in the kitchen like Michael Jackson, and Usher’s style inspired him.

“My inspiration stems from those of the past and my life experiences,” said Fitzhugh, who graduated from Lubbock High School before attending SPC.

He now raps and creates R&B music while continuing to pursue his education

. He writes his songs based on what’s going through his mind. He explained that sometimes they turn out good, and sometimes they do not.

alumn“I’m moving away from the whole album idea,” said Fitzhugh, “ because I think we live in a generation that consumes music differently than before. So, you probably won’t get a full-length album from me any time soon. But I will be releasing singles periodically throughout this year. This means much more to me than putting out an album. Because, with singles, I can touch whatever subject I want, whereas an album sometimes has a theme and some subjects don’t sound good together.”

Fitzhugh has plans for his new music and what he wants his fans and listeners to realize.

  “I hope that for this upcoming music people just realize that I’m talented and how hard I work,” said Fitzhugh. “I think sometimes people think that people who want to make music do it as a gimmick. But for me, it’s not. I really work hard at my craft. I hope someday that it’s respected and enjoyed.”

A dream that most musicians hope to accomplish is performing at the House of Blues in Dallas, Texas. Fitzhugh accomplished this goal in December 2016. He explained that it felt like how he always dreamed it would. He had the chills before and after being on stage, which told him that he was doing what he needed to do.

“I will perform there again soon,” said Fitzhugh. “I’m speaking that into existence now.”

With studying secondary education and creating music, Fitzhugh has plans to keep his music and education from colliding.

“I hope that for me, my music and life as an educator will be separate,” said Fitzhugh. “Music for me is a release to vent and just express whatever I feel in that moment. As an educator, you have to be careful, and I understand that.”

You can find his music on all of his social media as @whoisbanks_.

Alum credits SPC for impacting his future

Jason Hartline says that he had a set plan for his time at South Plains College. But never did he imagine that the experiences would help sculpt his career and him as a person.

The Muleshoe native made his mark on the SPC campus as a student from 2007 through 2009. He served as an editor for the Plainsman Press, president of the Student Government Association, and was selected as President’s Student of the Year prior to his graduation.

Hartline also served an internship with Myrna Whitehead in the Office of Marketing and Recruitment at SPC. He got to see all the things and tasks that had to be done on a daily basis.

“It was the most overwhelming conversation I have ever had to this date,” said Hartline. “It just blew me away.”

Participating in different organizations and an internship at SPC allowed Hartline to see that there is a method to all the things that are involved in communications.

“If you just get one concept down, you’re able to create the entire kit pretty quickly,” Hartline added.

After graduating from SPC, Hartline went on to attend Texas Tech University, where he majored in Public Relations. However, Hartline said his experience there couldn’t compare to the experience he got at SPC.

“I met more mentors and more people that led me to where I am today,” said Hartline of his time spent on the Levelland campus. “I love South Plains College.”

While a student at Texas Tech, Hartline got the opportunity to study abroad in Spain and work for a public relations firm for a while. From there, Hartline went back to Lubbock and had various jobs and opportunities. But the different jobs weren’t always so great.

“I moved my entire life from Lubbock to Dallas,” Hartline recalled, “and within two days I didn’t have a job. It was wild.”IMG_9416

Eventually finding a job with an international company, Hartline was able to learn the importance of digital media in communication. Throughout his jobs, Hartline has had to write different things for many different companies. It was learning from his professors at SPC that helped him grow as a writer.

“I used to be an awful writer,” Hartline explained. “I was horrible, Charlie (Ehrenfeld) would beat me up every day about it. But he helped me work very hard to achieve all kinds of things.”

There are a lot of different aspects that go into public relations. But for Hartline, being able to create a streamlined message from a bunch of chaos is one of his favorite parts of public relations.

“The purpose of public relations is to create a message that people can take and be able to turn it into their own,” said Hartline.

According to Hartline, public relations is an art in itself that comes with the experience of knowing how to influence a person’s opinion.

  After some trials and errors, Hartline eventually got the opportunity to create his own firm at a young age called “Hartline and Partners.” Running his own firm has been his favorite job so far, according to Hartline.

“Some people like to be an employee and just to represent one thing,” Hartline said. “But I am way too scatter-brained to do that. So being able to do what I do now with my own practice, being able to touch a lot of things at once and keep my mind busy, is what makes what I do so enjoyable.”

According to Hartline, he wouldn’t be able to appreciate all the different aspects of Public Relations if it weren’t for all his previous jobs. Hartline said he appreciates not only the technical side of PR but moral and life things as well.

“If you have a good attitude about stuff and a good outlook on things, opportunity will come,” Hartline added.

Hartline explains that before coming to SPC, he didn’t know anything about public relations. He initially was interested in a commercial music major, but SPC changed his outlook and helped lead his direction in life. According to Hartline, SPC provided the foundation for what he knows.

“The people that really got involved in my life changed my perspective on not only public relations, but the communications industry in general,” Hartline said.

It was because of the professors who were so involved in Hartline’s education that he got the experience and drive needed to excel in the communications field.

“The people at SPC took the time to mentor me on what stuff means, so my education was just profound,” said Hartline. “My time at SPC was just so impactful.”

Proud alum credits career accomplishments to SPC

Joni Granados uses her past experiences at South Plains College to guide her successful career as a laboratory supervisor.

Granados began studying Biology from 2007 to 2009 at South Plains College. She also worked as a laboratory assistant for the Chemistry Department. She explained that this experience allowed her to learn more about the professors.

She also prepped the chemicals and supplies for chemistry labs, which gave her a taste of what it was like to work in a laboratory.

“I greatly enjoyed working with the Chemistry Department, getting to know the professors, and learning more about working in a laboratory,” recalled Granados.

Granados said that she enjoyed her time at SPC because of her professors, the campus, and flexible schedules. Once she transferred to Texas Tech, she realized how grateful she was for the small classes and how the professors were able to help students individually.alumn

When asked what advice she would give current students attending SPC, Granados explained that even though this is a community college, her grades follow her to this day when applying for jobs 10 years later.

“The best advice I can give is to enjoy their time at SPC,” Granados said. “It wasn’t until I went to a large university that I realized how much I under-appreciated the time and patience that professors have. The professors at SPC take time to help the students understand the material. Not to say that the professors at Tech weren’t helpful, but when you have a class of 200, you cannot provide individual attention that the professors at SPC are willing to do.”

Granados added that students should keep in mind that even though SPC is a community college, grades will follow you throughout your career.

“Every time I accept a new job, I must turn in copies of my transcripts,” said Granados, “though it’s been 10 years since I’ve attended SPC.”

Granados explained that SPC helped prepare her for earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree at Texas Tech.

“I have a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in Science, both from Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center,” explained Granados. “Attending SPC helped prepare me for TTUHSC.”

Granados has worked as a laboratory supervisor in two different laboratories. She is now a clinical laboratory scientist at South Texas Veterans Healthcare System in San Antonio, Texas.

Granados has accomplished earning multiple degrees on the way to becoming a Clinical Laboratory Scientist. South Plains prepared her for furthering her career.

“Earning my degree has helped me achieve my goals and allowed me to work in a field that gives me pride and a great feeling of accomplishment,” said Granados.

Alum follows dreams playing music around the world

Alum uses education to pursue music career, dreams

Many musicians dream of touring other countries and performing with different bands. For one South Plains College alum, this dream is a reality.

Aaron Smith, a SPC alum with a passion for music, has achieved many milestones throughout his part-time music career. Working as a welder during the day, Smith uses his free time to improve his music abilities and to experience the eventful life of a musician.

His achievements include touring Europe and performing with different local bands and musicians, such as Everything Is Sad and Slow Relics.

Smith, a Levelland native, was always exposed to music growing up with his family and was impacted by this exposure long before attending SPC.

“I kind of just always grew up around music,” said Smith. “Between my dad and grandpa playing in the church band, and always having music in the house, it was kind of impossible not to become infatuated.”

His family is one influence that Smith mentioned has always been there for him. He described how his family would help him by doing many things, such as driving him and his music gear to the shows he performed in when he was a kid.

“We always did, and still do, everything together,” said Smith. “My parents and sister rule.”

After graduating from Levelland High School, Smith continued to pursue his passion for music when he attended SPC from 2006 to 2009. Smith says his time at SPC was filled with its fair share of uncertainty, hard work, and excitement.

When attending SPC, Smith was not sure where to focus his efforts. But his love for music was a driving factor that swayed his focus.

“I had a hard time figuring out what to study,” Smith said, “because I basically wanted to study it all. But my main focus was in Music Education and Political Science.”

Despite his uncertainty toward what to study, Smith still enjoyed attending SPC. The campus atmosphere was peaceful, and his work load kept him engaged, especially when he became a music major.

“My work load seemed relaxed until I became a music major,” said Smith. “Being a music major isn’t for the faint of heart. I can still smell those practice rooms.”

Alum- Aaron (far left)Regardless of the heavy workload, Smith described his professors as being a huge help when he was faced with a problem.

“The professors were approachable and always ready to be a mentor,” said Smith.

Throughout his education at SPC, Smith has received many opportunities to experience things that will aid him in his music endeavors. Smith described SPC as an engaging environment which allowed him to excel within his field of study.

The musical skills and social connections Smith developed at SPC are a few benefits that he mentioned to have impacted his journey in music.

“SPC refined my ear and mechanics,” said Smith. “But the biggest impact has probably been the network of people I met at SPC.”

This network of people who impacted Smith had a diverse set of skills that helped him become acquainted with different areas of the music industry.

“I’ve met other musicians, sound tech guys, writers that I still gladly work with today,” said Smith.

The music education, worthwhile relationships, and compassionate professors were all influences that Smith carried with him throughout his music journey. Smith says these college experiences were influential in directing him toward fulfilling his passion for music.

However, his pursuit of his passion was not without some challenges. There were moments of failure and resignation that occurred when he tried to look for different gigs in other parts of Texas.

“I moved from Levelland to Houston for a couple of years,” recalls Smith. “I tried and failed to get into any scene over there, so I kind of just let go of playing. I moved back, and it seems like I just fell into it again.”

Alum- Aaron GuitarThe experiences gained from SPC and the slight failures are things that Smith mentioned that influenced his path in the music industry. His time at SPC gave him the skills and connections to satisfy his passion and to gain many achievements.

Smith explained that he has reached many milestones in his journey, and that some of them gave him certain opportunities to stand out as a music artist. Some performances allowed him to delve into different techniques.

“I got to open some of the shows on tour acoustically,” said Smith.

Smith mentioned that these types of shows were “amazing,” as he was able mix up his approach and do things that he does not normally do in a typical performance.

“I like being able to play different styles and different instruments,” said Smith.

The opportunity to expand his music abilities is one benefit of performing with different local artists. Playing bass for Everything Is Sad and playing drums for Slow Relics and Daniel Payne, a local musician, are the many opportunities that Smith gets to display his multiple music talents.

Yet none of these milestones compares to performing in a tour across Europe. According to Smith, traveling to Europe was the one milestone that stands out from the rest.

“Touring Europe is definitely the biggest milestone for me musically,” said Smith.

Throughout every aspect of his life, Smith has displayed a deep passion for music. His education and childhood are just a few things that Smith mentioned to be major contributors in achieving his music goals.

“Honestly, it’s because of the SPC network of people,” Smith explained as the main reason for his achievements. “I dreamed it, but I didn’t think I would be able to do it.”   

Alum finds balance between her passions of fire fighting, photography

[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]

Not only does Sussan Bell follow her passion, but she also gives back to the community while doing it.

Bell owns her own photography studio, Fire Angel Photography, while also serving as the first lady firefighter for the Levelland Fire Department.

“Photography has always been one of my passions,” Bell says. “I’m an artist by trait, to be honest with you. I’ve always been able to draw and paint. When I was 3, I could draw a horse that looked like a horse, so it just evolved from there.”

Bell attended the International School of Fine Arts in 1980 earned a master’s degree in fine arts.

“I never did get a teaching certificate with that, and I wasn’t about to go back to school,” Bell recalls. “So I was always teaching art and doing substitute teaching in schools, thinking maybe I could just substitute teach in art, which I did for several years. Then when my grandkids were born, I picked up a camera. That was 16 years ago.”

Bell decided to continue her passion for photography by taking photography classes at South Plains College in 2007.

“I attended SPC 10 years ago,” Bell said. “I took all the photography classes I could, with Paul Davidson and Wes Underwood. I did not get a degree (from SPC). I just took all the classes I could to start this business.”

But it’s not just photography for Bell. She uses paintings that she’s painted herself for photo manipulations of her photos.

“Everything I use is basically stuff I’ve painted and then photographed, and then used them in the manipulations,” Bell explains. “It’s a lot of work, but it is so worth it, though. The outcome, the pieces are just absolutely amazing.”

Bell says she doesn’t just take average photos for her clients. Each of them get her best she can give.

“I always give my clients a surprise,” Bell explains. “I don’t ever just take the pictures and go, ‘here you go.’ That’s not the way I work. I always make them the best, like they were my best clients. Because that’s how you keep your clients, and you always have returning clients.”

Bell uses her studio to give back to the community as well.

“I provide a service of taking photos that parents can afford,” said Bell. “My clientele are the people that don’t normally get to go have photos taken, or have their kids’ photos taken, because they can’t afford it. And that’s what I like about it, and plus I can give back to the community that way.”unnamed

She provides services for the Main Street program in Levelland, as well as photos for the Fire Department.

She also gives back to community with the work she does for the Fire Department. Bell has been on the department for 20 years. She comes from a long line of fire fighters.

“My great grandfather was just a basic volunteer firefighter in Oklahoma,” Bell says. “My grandfather was a firefighter in the Merchant Marines, then my dad is a volunteer over in two departments in Oklahoma. And then my brother was a fire chief over in Oklahoma through his county. So I became a firefighter because I married a firefighter.”

Bell’s husband, Bobby Bell, had been on the Levelland Fire Department for 40 years, before retiring four years ago. His family started the Levelland Fire Department in 1927.

“I enjoy it because it’s a passion,” Bell adds. “It’s helping people. I became an EMT through the college (SPC). It’s just something I’ve always wanted to do.”

fire-department-logoBell manages both her photography studio and fire fighting full time. She carries a pager on her at all times and goes to a fire when ever she is paged.

“I never go when I have a client,” Bell explains. “But as soon as I get through with them, I go down to the station. I’m up in the middle of the night fighting fires, and we’re out doing everything possible. That’s was I do. I thrive on the adrenaline of the Fire Department and EMS. I thrive on the photography.”

Bell hopes to be able to do both photography and fire fighting as long as possible.

“I plan on doing this as long as I possibly can because it is a fire, it’s a passion in me,” Bell says. “This (photography) will be until the day I die, because I love it. I mean, I’m constantly creating different things and making my own.”

Dream to work with NASA inspires alum to achieve goal

[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]

From directing plays, to designing the space vessels of the future, to designing tools used in deep sea exploration is how one South Plains College alum expressed his creativity.

Raised in Quinland, Easton Day started his career at SPC with a major in theatre, an area that was familiar to him after having been part of the SPC theatre program since he was 12 years old.

“When we were just visiting West Texas, I would be part of the theatre program in the summers with my dad and step-mom,” Day said. “Growing up, I’ve always been kind of right-brained and more creative than anything. And I’ve always loved theatre.”

During his senior year of high school, Easton’s step mother, Janna Holt-Day, began teaching at SPC, moving their family to Levelland, Texas where Day finished high school.

Nearing completion of his associate’s degree at SPC, Day took time away from school to handle financial problems. During his time away from school, while working full time, he began to realize that he had developed different interests.

“I realized that I was not really missing theatre,” he said. “I missed certain aspects of it. Whenever I was out of school, I started developing interests in astrophysics and engineering, which is something that I love. I realized that with those interests , and a nice paycheck, engineering was the way to go.”

Day says that when he was not attending college, he realized that he had a dream to work for NASA. When he returned, he talked to the then head of the Math and Engineering Department for advice and discussed SPC’s connections to NASA.

“There definitely was a way that I could create this route to get there,” Day recalls. “He gave me his opinion and how I could use SPC’s connections. I enrolled in school again and started in engineering and set those goals for myself to complete.”

One of the connections that Day was told about was Community College Aerospace Scholars, or CCAS. He explained that it would be the initial connection he needed to make with NASA.


Screen Shot 2017-11-09 at 7.59.48 PM
Easton Day standing in front of the Orion cockpit. MATT MOLINAR/PLAINSMAN PRESS


“I worked very hard to be invited to that trip,” Day said. “Once I was accepted, my next goal was to win the competition [building a unique robot used for planetary exploration]. We killed it. Not only did we win the competition, but we outscored any other previous teams at any competition that they’ve had.”

Day had completed his goal to get the attention from NASA that he and his teammate needed.

“If I set my mind to it, 99 percent of the time, I’m going to achieve it,” Day said. “The competition was something that I set my mind to. I had no doubt that I would be invited for the internship. Dr. Anderson, the director, loved to say that I always reminded him of a bull dog. If I sank my teeth into something, I’m never letting go.”

Day spent a total of five years at South Plains College, figuring out what exactly he wanted want to do for the rest of his life. He also says that his favorite part about attending SPC was the relationships he was able to develop with professors.

“They are there for you,” Day said. “This isn’t always true outside of SPC. For that reason, it’s easy to have respect. If you’re willing to learn and you’re willing to ask for help, there’s no chance that they are not going to do what they can do to help you succeed.”

Following the semester he graduated from South Plains College, Day began a sixth-month internship with NASA’s Orion Cockpit Working Group at the Johnson Space Center.

During his internship, he contributed to the design of the interface of NASA’s newest developing space capsule, Orion.

“I worked designing some of the components of the cockpit,” Day said. “There are many Orions across the states right now. They are all used for different testing purposes. The one I worked in was for astronaut training.”

The Orion spacecraft is currently being designed as a new means of transportation for astronauts, and is on track to take humans to Mars within the next 20 years.

Day says that the experience he was able to receive at the Space Center was rewarding in many ways.

“The best part about it is going to be when I see Orion fly,” he explained. “I’ll finally get that feeling of ‘I helped get man to space.’ If it lands on Mars, that will be the first time humans have landed on Mars, and I’ve been able to contribute to that.”

Currently, Day works for Oceaneering International Incorporated, designing Remotely Operated Vehicles that are used in deep-sea exploration, surveying for the oil industry, and even for entertainment.

After graduating from Texas Tech University with a degree in Mechanical Engineering, Day utilized the connections he had made to begin working with Oceaneering as a sub-sea engineer.

“With my personality, there’s really only two types of work I would enjoy doing and can stick with,” Day said. “It’s either space, or sub-sea. I like the two extreme environments.”

Day says his current goal is to learn as much as he can and continue building his resume by exposing himself to more opportunities.

“To succeed in school and to succeed in the workplace, it requires drive,” he said. “Just to get the engineering degree itself is no easy accomplishment. You have to be dedicated, and it has to become your life. If you want it that much and it’s something you’re passionate about, it can be easy.”

Alum utilizes skills learned to build successful radio station

[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]

Tania Moody has come a long way from working in sales at the local radio station as a way to earn extra money for college, to owning the very same station.

“When I decided in 2006 that I would go back to school, that’s when I got my bachelor’s degree,” Moody explained. “Well, I needed extra money to pay for college. I knew I could do sales, so I came out here to the radio station and they had a position available.”

“ I got hired and did sales for several years,” Moody continues, “and then I was moved up to sales manager. I did that for a couple of years, and then I became station manager. Then, in 2011, the previous owner decided that he wanted to acquire some other radio stations. So the guy that was the station manager for that Littlefield station actually asked him if he could purchase the station. So he came to me and said, ‘Well, Cody is going to purchase the Littlefield station, so would you be interested in purchasing that Levelland station?”

After the owner asked Moody if she wanted to buy the station, she decided to lease it in 2012 as a trial to see if she would be able to handle it. A year later, Moody made the decision to sign the papers and buy KLVT.

Moody has been able to maintain the station so well with her experience with all parts of KLVT.

“I’ve been through all the different jobs here at the station, except for I have not ever called sports and I haven’t ever really been on the news desk,” said Moody. “But I have done some news stories and that sort of thing. But mainly I’ve done sales, management and just all of the particulars that you that to do with the FCC to maintain your license.”

Moody attended SPC several times, starting in 1989.

During her college career, she went through many different degree plans, ranging from commercial music to journalism.

“I kind of didn’t finish any one degree, but I had enough hours to finish several different degrees,” said Moody. “Then eventually I went back and got my associate’s in 2007. It was an Associate of Arts degree, and then I went and got my bachelor’s from Kaplan University.”

Tania Moody, host and owner of KLVT, sitting at her studio. AUTUMN BIPPERT/PLAINSMAN PRESS

Moody credits a lot of her success in the industry to South Plains College.

“I got a lot of really good foundational learning from South Plains College that has allowed me to transition into all this,” Moody explains. “And I would credit many of the instructors at SPC. John Sparks, in the Communication Department, he was very instrumental in some of the things I use day to day, like asking good questions and being able to listen. And the importance, especially in today’s world, of reporting facts.”

“Journalistic integrity is at an all-time low,” Moody added. “I really feel like having those mentors really kind of guided my compass. We work really hard to verify all of the news that we put out. When we do our news or our sports report, my staff knows how important it is that we do not jump the gun, and we do maintain integrity and our relationships with all of these people around the area.”

Many of Moody’s family members also have been a part of SPC. Her father, Rusty Huddleston, was a instructor in commercial music, and her mother, Schahara Huddleston, was an English professor. Her husband, Stuart Moody, is the chairperson of the Creative Arts Department and associate professor of sound technology.

Moody and her staff at KLVT are all involved in the Levelland community. Moody also serves as the president of the Levelland Independent School District Board of Education. She has served on the school board for nine years.

“I feel like that strengthens relationships and builds trust,” Moody said, “and they’ll trust us with stories where they would not with someone else that’s cold calling from a news organization. Building that trust in a small community is vital to serving the community well.”

Moody focuses on making her station a tool for the community and a support system for the region.

“I feel like a lot of times a smaller community gets slighted a little bit by the larger news organizations” Moody explains, “and so it’s really my goal and commitment to this area to just make this hometown station for these small communities.”

Cosmetology professor, family has seen college grow from start

by NICOLE LOPEZ//Sports Editor


Sarah Thompson’s family has been at the college since it was founded. TOVI OYERVIDEZ/PLAINSMAN PRESS.



It is rare to get to see a college grow from the beginning.

But for Sarah Thompson, instructor in cosmetology, her and her family has been part of South Plains College from the start.

Thompson and her family have SPC running through their veins. Thompson’s parents, James and Sycily Lattimore, built their first home on Linda Lane, the first street past the college to the south.

“SPC used to be just a pasture,” recalls Thompson. “Whenever they built that home, College Avenue was just a dirt road.”

Her mom was a faculty member at SPC for more than 30 years, and her dad provided most of the trees that are on the campus.

“My dad had a tree nursery, so I helped him plant a lot of the trees we have around the campus,” recalls Thompson. “I spent every waking moment on the campus. When my mom first became a faculty member, we would have Christmas parties, and I knew everyone. I called everyone by their first names. We were all a family.”

Thompson has lived in Levelland all her life. She went through grade school up until she graduated from Levelland High School. She also married her high school sweetheart and has been in town ever since.

However, Thompson’s initial profession was not cosmetology. She had another career choice in mind.

“In high school, I thought I was going to go into veterinary medicine,” recalls Thompson. “But when my dad got sick while I was in high school, I wanted to stay home and help take care of him. I then chose instead of doing the science and the math, I already went ahead and did cosmetology. That way I can go ahead and work my way through college, or be here to help with him.”

Thompson graduated from high school when she was 17 years old and received her cosmetology license before graduating. She attended SPC in the fall of 1978 through 1982, taking night classes for her basics and business courses.

“After I had family and whenever I had my parents to take care of, I decided to own two salon shops,” says Thompson. “I had one shop called the Clipper. I worked my first year for a lady who was a wonderful mentor to me. After I worked for her for a year, another lady and I went into partnership, which was the Clipper. The first year that I worked at the Clipper, I was trained in electrolysis, which is permanent hair removal. I sold the Clipper, and I had that one for 14 years.”

Thompson needed a little more privacy for her clients, which is why she bought another shop named Shear Imagination. She has owned Shear Imagination for 37 years.

During the time Thompson owned the Clipper, she decided to pursue her instructor’s course in cosmetology. She finished her instructor’s license in 2002. She was a part-time instructor in 2003, then got a full-time job at SPC in August of 2006.

Thompson says that she loves everything about her job. She says cosmetology is a wonderful profession, and it’s a great way to raise her family and take care of loved ones.

“There is nothing better than someone coming in after they’ve had a bad day and you give them a new hairstyle, or a manicure, or a pedicure, or a facial,” explains Thompson. “You can see all that weight being lifted off of them. It’s very rewarding. It’s very one-on-one, so you build that relationship with those clients. I got clients that I’ve been seeing for 40 years.”

Thompson and her family have dedicated most of their life to SPC. Her husband is also an alum, as are her two daughters. Her granddaughters are also alumni, with another granddaughter on the way who is sure to follow in the tradition of attending SPC.

“I have three siblings, and they all have gone to SPC and graduated,” Thompson said. “My sister is still a faculty member, and she teaches accounting. I have nearly seen SPC grow for 60 years. I feel my family and I bleed orange and blue.”

Thompson also is a proud member of the SPC Foundation Board and the Scholarship Committee. She teaches yoga at the SPC PE complex on Tuesdays and Thursdays. She also loves being with family, swimming, animals and being outdoors.

“I would like to challenge all SPC alumni to donate to SPC and share the joy of education,” says Thompson.

Alum uses degree to chase dreams, travel world with U2

by NICOLE LOPEZ//Sports Editor


It’s not every day you get to live out your dream.

But South Plains College alumnus Anne Butt is doing just that.

Butt attended SPC in the fall of 2011 and majored in general studies. A year later, she switched her major to sound technology. She was also crowned Miss Caprock in 2014, before graduating in December of that year.

“I took a year to get those basics out of the way, just in case I wanted to transfer and get my bachelor’s,” according to Butt.

Moving from New Jersey to come to Levelland wasn’t a huge transition for Butt. Her mother grew up in the surrounding area and also attended SPC.

“I knew I wanted to do sound, and SPC was one of the schools that had a sound program,” says Butt. “I still had family that lived in Shallowater, so it was a little familiar and cost effective.”

Butt said she knew she wanted to work in sound ever since she was younger. Her father was a musician, so she was always around live music. Then, in the seventh or eighth grade, her class was running sound waves, and she remembered what was said in one of her textbooks.

“In one of our textbooks, there was a little blurb about being an audio engineer, and working in concerts,” Butt recalls. “I thought that sounded like the coolest job ever, because it involves math, science, and you get to travel. That sounded perfect. I decided to do that.”

Butt is currently working as a touring audio technician for a company called Clair Global, which is one of the biggest sound reinforcement companies in the world.

“I fly the speakers that are up in the air and do the cabling, and stuff like that,” explains Butt. “I also plug all of the equipment and make sure everything is working. I help out whoever needs help, like patching the stage, or helping our crew chief.”

According to Butt, the hiring industry for sound can get complicated. The reason is because many touring technicians are contract laborers and not full-time employees, so it’s harder to get your name out there.

“There was a previous student who went to SPC about five years before I did,” recalls Butt. “I reached out to him and got the ball rolling. Maybe a month after that, they put a listing up on their website, which doesn’t happen often. I sent in my resume and I didn’t hear anything, so I sent a follow-up email as a last attempt for them to notice me. Soon after that, I got a phone call to set up an interview.”

Butt resides in Pennsylvania, but is on the road most of the time. She says Clair Global makes sure a road staff member has 200 days on the road yearly.

“In October, which is when I’ll go home for about a week, I’ll have worked 268 days on the road this year,” says Butt.

Butt is currently touring with U2, a rock band from Dublin, Ireland. The tour started in April, and they’ll be finishing up in North America before travelling to South America in October.

“I’ve been all around the United States,” Butt explains. “I’ve been to Hawaii and all the way up to Canada. This summer, I did my first European tour. We travelled to London, Paris, Amsterdam, Berlin, Spain, Rome, and Brussels. I did a gig in Mexico City last year too. In October, we’re traveling to Chile, Argentina, Brazil, and Colombia.”

Some days Butt can’t believe she’s doing what she really enjoys. She likes to look back and see how far she has come. She said she believes everything boils down to hard work.

“You’re like, man, the really crappy gigs I did, and now I’m here,” says Butt. “At the time, those gigs were challenging, but they were fun too. It still blows my mind sometimes. I’m like ‘Oh my god, I graduated three years ago, and it’s only been three years and I’m out on tour with my company’s greatest bands.’”

Even though Butt has a blast and loves what she does, every job has its challenges.

“There are definitely hard days for the nature of touring,” explains Butt. “We had one show in Europe and I almost went 48 hours running on four hours of sleep. If you really do something you enjoy, then those days feel more worth it. I had a friend tell me you’re going to have to work more than you sleep. You might as well choose something that you enjoy.”

Butt can’t wait to see what else the future holds for her. She always enjoys working with the crew because she gets to be part of a great team.

“I’m really grateful for SPC, especially Matt [Quick] and Jeremiah [Denning], and all the other teachers that are there,” says Butt. “It’s a great school. I can’t thank them enough.”

Interest in medical field sparks career for alum

by SHELBY MORGAN//Staff Writer


Following her heart and her interest in the human anatomy led D’lena Ipson to her career as a radiology tech.

An Andrews native, Ipson is a 2014 graduate of the South Plains College Radiologic Technology program. She currently works at University Medical Center in Lubbock as a Radiologic Technologist.

Every day, she works alongside physicians to help pinpoint and diagnose patients by producing 2-D and 3-D images of tissue, organs, bones, and vessels of the body using some of the most technologically advanced equipment in the medical field.

“I enjoy working with patients and being a part of helping them feel better,” Ipson said. “Sometimes we’re the first line of defense in helping doctors diagnose patients when they come into the ER, by getting a better look inside of their body.”

She always knew that she wanted to be a part of the medical field to help people. So the decision to go into the radiology program came easy to her. She has always had a fascination with being able to see what’s going on with the internal organs and bones.

I like the reward of getting to help people,” said Ipson. “I always knew I wanted to be in the medical field. But I knew I didn’t want to be a nurse.

When Ipson isn’t working, she enjoys hanging out with her coworkers, friends, and boyfriend. She also really enjoys traveling, having just recently returned from a trip to Copenhagen, Denmark, a trip she took with her brother and sister-in-law. She often has dinner with friends and cook-outs at home, as well as weekly Bible studies with her roommate and Bible study group.

“My co-workers are like my extended family,” Ipson said. “Most of us completed the program together and became very good friends. I also worked at the Bookstore at Reese while I attended SPC, and I met my best friend there.”

She thrived at South Plains College because she is from a small town, and the smaller campus and class sizes were familiar to her. Because the classes were smaller, she was able to get to know her instructors one-on-one, which made it easier to communicate with them.

I like the small feel of SPC,”  explained Ipson. “It was nice how people are there to help you if needed anything, or had any questions.”

She encourages anyone considering entering the Radiologic Technology program to go for it. There will always be a need for the health care field, and there are job opportunities across the country for radiological technologists. Radiology techs can find employment in a variety of institutions, such as hospitals, dedicated imaging centers, or a clinic or private doctor’s office, depending on one’s education, abilities, and interests

“My only advice is to stay ahead, and pay attention,” Ipson said. “You can never be too prepared for the kinds of cases you will get, because each one is different.”

In the future, she hopes to continue working in the radiology department and hopes to have the opportunity to travel more.


Alum finds career with Border Patrol after criminal justice degree

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief


Dan Harris, Jr. has law enforcement in his blood.

His father had duel careers serving in law enforcement and education. He was a Denver City police officer and reserve commander of the Yoakum County Sheriff’s Department and with the Denver City ISD as a coach and eventually high school principal.

“I am a sixth generation law enforcement officer,” Harris said. “As a small child, all I have ever wanted to do was be in law enforcement, a true calling in my blood.”

The Denver City native moved to Seagraves before his sophomore year and soon graduated from Seagraves High School.

Harris chose to attend South Plains College after graduating because of the great reputation of the Law Enforcement Program and of SPC’s overall positive reputation.

“I gained so much from attending SPC,” Harris said. “From the education and experiences to the relationships, just so much. I was named one of two Outstanding Law Enforcement Students in 1989, and today we both are senior leaders in our Law Enforcement agencies and still work together.”

Coming from a small town, Harris found that the small community of SPC was very similar to the atmosphere of his high school.

“The transition was very easy, and the staff and my fellow students were great,” Harris said. “My best memory at SPC was meeting my wife, Katrina, in the Texan Dining Hall. We have now been married for almost 27 years.”

While attending SPC, Harris kept himself extremely busy. While taking a full course load, he worked full time for Levelland EMS, served as president of the SPC Law Enforcement Club and was a member of the Student Government Association.

“Times are definitely different for college students now, than when I was at SPC,” Harris said. “Primarily in the technology world. My advice is not to let that technology such as the Internet ruin your future. It can be such a great thing to help you, especially with your studies, but there are a lot of bad people and bad things on that web.”

After graduating in 1989 with a degree in Criminal Justice, Harris moved to San Angelo, where he went to work for the city as a police officer. Soon after, he went on to attend the U.S. Border Patrol Academy, using his prior education to aid him while moving up the ranks.

“My SPC education has helped me in my current role as a great foundation of both general and law enforcement education and experience,” Harris said. “My role now is to lead those who provide the most outstanding training to new Border Patrol agents and advance training to approximately 20,000 current agents. My SPC education is a key part of that.”

In 2008, Harris was recognized as a Distinguished Alum by the SPC administration.

“It is a huge honor to be recognized as a SPC Distinguished Alum,” Harris said. “I was awarded for my leadership in the law enforcement profession, including being awarded the [U.S. Border Patrol’s] highest award for valor and courage, the Newton-Azrak award.”

In July 2017, Harris took over the Artesia Border Patrol Training Academy as the Chief Patrol Agent.

“I wanted to make a positive difference in the training and education of both our future agents and our current force of over 19,000,” Harris said.

According to Harris, the U.S. Border Patrol is a law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and U.S. Customs and Border Protection with the primarily responsibility to keep terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the United States. These agents are responsible for protecting the areas between the land border ports of entry.

“I chose the U.S. Border Patrol for many reasons,” Harris said. “I love the outdoors, the desert, our country, and love catching the bad guys, especially those who bring drugs into our country. It is a remarkable thing to serve and protect. I would never change anything about my career choice.”

Harris said his favorite part of being a Border Patrol agent is that he gets to make a positive difference in the security of the country every day.

“As with any law enforcement officer, you have times of great hardship and challenges, shear terror and tragedy,” Harris said. “Those are what make your job so challenging. But when you save someone’s life, when you make a positive difference in someone’s life and in the protection of our country, well, words can’t describe how incredible your service truly is. My experiences have been absolutely phenomenal.”

Out of the many years of being in the Border Patrol, Harris has had his fair share of crazy and wonderful moments.

“There are so many best moments it would be hard to define just one,” Harris said.  “Receiving the U.S. Border Patrol’s highest award for valor and courage, the Newton-Azrak Award would be one of those. Receiving that honor in memory of our fallen heroes, those who have died in the line of duty and knowing that 10 years ago this year two of my fellow officers did not come home with us after that call, well, honoring them will always be one of those moments.”

Harris has so much wisdom to share with current SPC students.

“Whatever career field you choose, be your absolute best and don’t let anyone or anything ruin your life,” Harris said. “Work hard and enjoy every minute. I sure enjoyed every minute of SPC. I’m so proud to be an SPC alum and wish everyone at SPC the absolute very best.”


Alum creates distribution company, travels the world

by ALEX PEREZ//Feature Editor


[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]

From the windy city of Lubbock, Terry Hill energized his passion and began his journey to his dream job with help from South Plains College.

Hill graduated from SPC in 1980 with an Associate of Science Degree in Science and soon after began at Texas Tech University to finish off his education with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Microbiology.

Hill had always been a part of the West Texas community, as he was born in Lubbock and then moved to Levelland with his family when he was in sixth grade. Hill’s father worked in the oil industry and moved the family closer to work.

Having grown up so close to the campus, South Plains was a no-brainer for Hill to start off his higher education. He recalls his fun times in West Texas as a young, but determined, college student who took an interest in chemistry and engineering.

“South Plains let me see the world was a bigger place,” says Hill.

Being a part of a community-based student body helped Hill grow, not only as a student but as a person too. During his time on the Levelland campus, he served for many student organizations, including Student Government. Hill was a senator for the student body during his sophomore year at SPC before he transferred to Texas Tech.

He describes his involvement at SPC as, “Not just academics.” He states that his experience in the classroom was more than just the curriculum. He also learned life lessons that would follow him and help him into a successful career.

“Obviously when you are 16, 17, 18, you don’t realize the affect of your education,” Hill said. “ I had a couple of really good professors that taught me how to study and learn.”

Hill bonded with a couple of his professors who kept him going and motivated him to succeed. Hill said that Bob Beck and Richard James were the two biggest influencers, the ones who really pushed Hill to achieve his goal and then some.

By Hill’s definition, college is all about learning and then studying what you learn to then put it in action. With the tools to study and learn, Hill was set for a great career path with the help of his professors at SPC.

At Texas Tech, he began to working for David Miller, who owned a medical distribution company. Hill wanted to either be a chemical engineer or work in the medical field. He ended up really liking the distribution industry and decided to make a career out of it. After graduating, Hill put off medical school, moved to Dallas and began working for a distribution company.

apexbigSince then, Hill has relocated to Seattle and worked at a distributing company called Univar for about 30 years, before retiring. He now runs his own distribution and consulting company, APEX.

At Univar, Hill started out as the regional vice president until 2002, when he was promoted to president and senior vice president of U.S. operations. Hill had this title for about five years, and he was in charge of more than 100 locations across the country. He also created and built key distribution areas around the country.

In 2007, Hill’s life got really exciting when he got the position as chief commercial officer and then executive vice president of industry relations. During this time, Hill had the opportunity to really explore the world, as he was studying the cultures and commerce of many other countries.

“ A boy from Lubbock and Levelland literally got to see the world,” says Hill.  “They were all a little it different,” Hill explained, “but interesting to watch. China’s evolution of their economy and Europe had a lot of history and cultural differences.”

Hill was given the opportunity of a lifetime to explore the world and help create growth strategies for countries such as China, Mexico and Brazil.

After having a great career at Univar, Hill retired in August 2015. Although he is retired, he is still working on his own company, consulting with companies and organizations.

Hill is taking it easy and living by his motto, “No wasted days.” With the news that his wife of 32 years has an incurable form of lymphoma, Hill and their four children stay close to home. Hill’s wife is now in remission, which their whole family is grateful for. Working with the marriage ministry at his local church, Hill and his family have found content in their life.

Hill continues to get involved in the community and continues to give back to SPC with his scholarship for students who are transferring to Baylor University. He also is on the board for Chemical Educational Foundation, which provides chemistry for grade and middle school-age children.

Encouraging education is his hidden passion. You Be the Chemist is an organization that is a competition that is structured like the national spelling bee. Instead of words, there are chemistry problems, with the winner getting a trip to the White House. Through this organization, as well as the multiple foundations Hill is a part of, he has helped millions of children get into chemistry and biology.

Hill credits SPC for helping him begin his journey to a wonderful career.

“No matter where you started life,  it is a great adventure,” said Hill. ”Take full advantage of every opportunity and every interaction.”

[Photo courtesy of Terry Hill]

Alum combats unhealthy lifestyles for students as certified dietician

by SHELBY MORGAN//Staff Writer


[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]

Mindy Diller has found her calling helping students with their dietary and nutritional needs at Texas Tech University.

Diller graduated from South Plains College with an Associate of Science degree and then transferred to Texas Tech University to finish her degree in Dietetics and Nutrition. She is now the registered dietician for Hospitality Services at Texas Tech. She is in charge of 21 dining locations on the Texas Tech campus, including restaurant franchises and campus dining halls, all with unique food choices. She collaborates with the executive chef to support menu options with location managers.

 Miller is working to combat the unhealthy lifestyle that surrounds college students, whether out of convenience or knowledge of their dietary needs. Texas Tech has a Smart Choices Program that encompasses healthy opportunities campus-wide with suggestions on foods in dining locations that are lower in fat and calories. Menu options are available for students who have specific dietary needs, such as gluten-free, vegan, vegetarian, or food allergies.

She also serves as a resource for residence halls. She coordinates with the Residence Hall Association and creates presentations for students to build campus partnerships and relationships. She also writes weekly blogs with nutritional information for students.

“I work with the Recreation Center pretty often,” Diller said. “We find areas supporting the rec sports or intramural sports to be a resource with them with handouts and healthy eating on campus, no matter what age and stage you’re in. I also enjoy working with our ROTC, so I got to do a sports nutrition program for them. I get to counsel cadets and support them in their nutritional needs. I think it’s so incredibly important to support our future soldiers. If that’s something that I can do here, then I feel like I’m doing something.”

Aside from working full-time at Texas Tech, Diller also works as an outpatient dietician twice a week at an outpatient facility in Lubbock. In her spare time, she enjoys watching her son play varsity tennis, family time, watercolor painting, and participating in a book club.

“I play sports with my family,” she said. “We like golf and tennis, and then my family are big gamers. So when they’re gaming, I have an opportunity to do whatever I want.”

Diller says that she will never forget the impact of her instructors and her journey through SPC that taught her important life lessons. She encourages anyone considering furthering their education to get out there and do it. There are people and resources in place to help you get through it.

“Take your school work seriously,” Diller said. “But if you can learn to relax in the body you’ve got and trust yourself to make good, educated decisions, and part of that starts with going to class.” “Instructors have such a great impact,” she added. “I had several great instructors at South Plains College, and one of them taught me how to study, and I was so grateful for that.”

Gonzales continues to pursue agriculture career despite tragedy

by MATT MOLINAR//Associate Editor

[Editor’s note: This story is part of an ongoing project in conjunction with the South Plains College Alumni Association. The project highlights former SPC students and their achievements.]img_1396

Less than one year after graduating from South Plains College, Nancy Gonzales was faced with the biggest challenge of her life – losing the one she loves.

Gonzales graduated from SPC in May 2016 with an Associate of Arts degree in agriculture communications. During her time at SPC, she was able to develop lasting relationships with professors who were willing to sit down and work with her.

“I chose SPC because while going to Meadow High School, which is a small community, I did the Texas Tech Upward Bound program,” Gonzales explained. “Doing that made me consider the transition. Going from 17 kids in a class to a mighty 300, I don’t think I could’ve done it. Going to SPC allowed me to meet with teachers more easily available to help me out.”

Gonzales says she recalls her fondest memories at SPC were with Charles Ehrenfeld, chairman of the Communications Department. During the span of three years she spent at SPC, she was able to make memories she will never forget.

“He cares,” Gonzales said of Ehrenfeld. “He really cares. He cared about your success, and if you had a problem with anything, he made the time to actually help you. He encourages you to be successful. Because he has had so much experience, he can easily answer any question you have in his classes.”

Currently, Gonzales works at the Lamesa Medical Arts Hospital as an insurance patient biller. She says she’s currently working on getting the experience needed to pursue the jobs she is interested in.

“I really want to work at the Texas Ag Union, or just any state agriculture business,” Gonzales said. “Ag is something I grew up around and have always known. Most Ag businesses are small town, and something I want to do is expand my career and work for bigger ag producers.”

On Thanksgiving Day, Gonzales’ boyfriend was involved in a motorcycle accident that ended his life. They had been dating “on and off” for eight and a half years. Dealing with tragedy wasn’t easy for Gonzales, but she says her work in agriculture helped keep her distracted from the thought of losing her loved one.

“It was very hard,” Gonzales said. “The way I actually coped with it was by keeping myself busy with work. I’m the president of the Meadow Livestock Association, and around that time we were trying to get things ready for stock shows.”

Gonzales is also a youth leader at her church in Levelland and says that there were many activities that needed to be planned during her time of mourning. This also kept her busy and distracted from the loss, she says.

“Staying busy prevented lots of thinking from happening,” Gonzales said. “I wasn’t really able to sit down and process the whole thing until after work. It was that and a lot – a lot of prayer that helped get me through it.”

Gonzales says that she was able to develop friendships during the time she was mourning. She says she was able to realize who was truly supporting her.

“My best friend, my sister, and more family kept constant communication with me,” she said. “That’s one of the biggest things that got me through it.”

Gonzales advises current SPC students to never give up while pursuing a dream. She says not to let anything get in the way of your goals, explaining that you get out of life what you put into it.

“It doesn’t matter how long it takes you to finish,” she said. “It’s your dream that you’re going after and your work that you are putting in. Ask questions, and don’t let anybody tell you that you cannot be something. There are programs on campus that can help you succeed. Go prove them wrong.”